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#dinghy – If you don't know to which port you are sailing no wind is favourable. It's an old mariners proverb but it held some truth for last weekend's Dinghy & One Design Keelboat Racing Advisory Group (DOKRAG) Convention at the National Yacht Club where up to 40 dinghy enthusiasts resolved to breathe new life into a scene that has suffered a huge fall off in beginners, partly due to the cost of sailing. But how to do it is the next big question. Initiatives like dinghy shows are to be considered and the meeting also identifed huge potential for attracting new sailors into the sport, particularly the twenty–and thirty-something's who may be moving from traditional team sports, into the burgeoning "adventure sport" arena

But building theories based on small pieces of evidence is not that scientific so in the absence of data that can be relied on, the meetings findings must be taken with a pinch of salt.

One such statistic to emerge from the conference was that Ireland's racing fleet is 2000 active boats (including the ICRA cruiser nationals fleet) and 6000 active racers.

The presentation of a project to standardise collection of data from classes by Sean Craig was very worthwhile and an important first step but it is clear that the advisory group charged with trying to make sense of the dwindling figures are still coming to terms with existing numbers in the sport. Craig's powerpoint presentation is available to download below.

This was the first time, since its formation, that the group has met with the classes. This was the first of a number of proposed consultative meetings. The key themes were data collection (existing and future) and future development.

Significantly, the meeting of dinghy class interests included members of the newly formed ISA Strategic Review Group who were no doubt interested in hearing about the numbers currently involved in dinghy sailing, a back bone of the sport in Ireland.

The SRG has been formed specifically with the task of coming up with a new plan for Irish sailing and any future plan will include a means to boost flagging fleet numbers where it was largely agreed any class championships that currently has only 10 to 15 participants in not viable in the longer term.

Data
The DOKRAG considered that any Advice offered must be based on fact and looked at the available data, and ascertained what other data was necessary to make fully informed recommendations.
Existing data of participation in National Championships was presented and analysed. (see slides) This data challenges the consensus that senior dinghy racing classes are in decline.
This data is National Championships only (so no Water Wag or Howth 17 for example), excludes overseas visitors and is based on nominations for the ISA All-Ireland (ex Helmsmans) Sailing Championships.

Key trends
1/ Senior Dinghy classes are up 6% 2008-2013, although on a ten year view there is a 5% dip, due largely to falls in larger designs such as Wayfarer, Multihull and Fireball.
"Traditional classes" (Mermaid, SOD, IDRA 14, Nat 18) are largely unchanged. There is continued strength in GP 14 and Laser and gradual increases in RS classes.
2/ Junior classes show a worrying 28% decline in the last 5 years, led by more "fun-oriented classes" like Feva, Topaz and now even Topper. Mirror appears to have consolidated well at lower levels and was, in fact, the second largest regatta by people in 2013. Numbers remain high in ISA Pathway single handers like Optimist and Laser, although the Optimist has seen a fall in the last 5 years. Single handers account for a very high 69% of all boats competing, in stark contrast to Senior dinghies where Double handers are 94%.
3/ Keelboat numbers show a downward drift in total but there is a negative skew from the explosive growth of the SB-20, which has fallen and is hopefully consolidating at the 20-25 boat level from 50+. Possibly more expensive and larger boat-types like Dragon, Etchells and even 1720 appear to be faring less well than smaller designs like the Squib and Flying Fifteen that continue to stage Championships with at or close to thirty boats.
4/ Cost is a probable causal factor for lower turnout given better performance by smaller boat types in each category.
5/ Overall numbers should be seen in the context of the following; Static or declining
Cruiser/ICRA numbers, big decline in Learn to Sail/Small Boat Scheme numbers (down over 50% in 5 years), the fall in ISA membership (20% in 5 years) and, of course, the recession.
6/ Junior racing numbers appear, not surprisingly, to have been closely correlated with the numbers participating in the ISA Small boat training scheme with large increases in both 2004-2008 and sharp decreases in both thereafter. SSB 2012 certification numbers were still 5,200 and over 450 Instructor certification courses have been completed in the first 3 quarters of 2013 (up from just 160 in full-year 2005 for example). These are included in the analysis for possible relevance to overall racing population numbers.
7/ Adjusting for crew per boat and adding in the Team/Match racing sector/events, produces an estimate of 2,161 people participating in Irish National Championships in
2013.

Slide9nationalsturnout

However, it was recognised that the number of those participating in National Championships is only a proportion of those regularly sailing in those classes. It is estimated that the number of regular, club sailors could be a multiple of 2 or 3 of these figures, with variations between classes. While this additional data is not currently available, it would be important if the true profile of dinghy/open keel sailing in Ireland is to be identified. This is best done through the classes. A draft template for such future data collection was shown to attendees, the template will be refined based on feedback, and then circulated to classes for completion. The aim is to get an accurate profile of age groups, gender, distribution of classes through various clubs, costs incurred, and racing opportunities and participation at a local level.

Development
Future Development of dinghy sailing was then considered,with active participation from delegates. The following had been identified as key issues, by the Group.

1. Impediments to the progression of a sailor from a Learning to Sail course, to becoming
a regular club sailor were discussed.
2.Cost. While cost was a consideration, the actual cost of participating in dinghy sailing need not be expensive. Costs of participating in sailing need to be quantified, and minimised for newcomers to the sport, both adult and junior. Cost does not only include boats and equipment, but participation in racing through entry fees, travelling expenses, etc
3. Transition from youth classes to senior classes was seen as a key issue, and needs more analysis.
4. A similar Consultation between DOKRAG and the Clubs will also be undertaken.

It is too early to give comprehensive recommendations from DOKRAG, as this is still the consultative phase. Some preliminary steps were discussed with the delegates to assess whether they merited further development:
1. encouragement of those who have completed the Small Boat Sailing scheme (SBS) to participate in racing at local level, as racing hones their new skills. (adult & junior)
2. Consider a "Irish Student Sailing Championship" open to all registered students in Ireland. Those over 18 cannot participate in the Youth Nationals. While students can race in class events, such as laser, at club level, or in University Team Racing events, but there is a high attrition rate of sailors after 18. There is no large, multiple-fleet regatta aimed specifically at this age group. The concept was supported by those present and deserves further evaluation.
2. There is huge potential for attracting new sailors into the sport, particularly the twenty- and thirty-something's who may be moving from traditional team sports, into the burgeoning "adventure sport" arena. Marketing opportunities to attract this group into sailng.could be pursued.
3. A Dinghy Exhibition would give an opportunity for the general public, and those who have completed SBS schemes, to see/try all classes of dinghies, particularly if combined with an on-the-water experience. The concept was supported by those present and will be explored further.

schemecerts

Published in ISA
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#smallboatforum – In anticipation of the small boat forum to be hosted next Saturday morning in the National Yacht Club, Roger Bannon has tried to gather some information over the last 2 years on attendance at class championships for dinghies and small keelboats. 

In Ireland we have about 20 recognised small boat and dinghy classes made up of single handed, 2 handed and 3 handed boats.

Based on the data I looked at, approximately 700 boats participated in a National Championships with an average of 1,300 Irish competitors involved in 2012 and 2013.

The statistics make interesting reading;
33% were single handed boats
45% were two handed boats
22% were three handed keel boats and large dinghies.

The number of active participants was split as follows:
Single handed 18%
Two handed 47%
Three handed 35%

Assuming that most participants in singlehanded classes such as the Oppy, Topper and Laser Radial and 2 handed classes such as the Feva and Mirror are under 23 years of age, this group together with a few who were involved in other classes, made up about 40% of the total individuals involved.

The active pool of remaining older competitive sailors involved in small keel boats and dinghies is less than 800 individuals! Nearly 500 of them raced in Mermaids, SB20s Shannon One Designs, Squibs, National 18s and Flying Fifteens with less than 300 people sailing other more performance oriented classes.

Clearly this is not indicative of the numbers involved in club and other recreational small boat sailing activities but it is a very stark analysis of the current competitive situation for so called prestige events!

The harsh reality in Ireland is that we probably have fewer adults racing small boats competitively in recognised championships all year than sail on any Thursday evening in Dublin Bay Sailing Club!

Even if the figures are wrong by 50% the message remains materially the same. With exception of a small number of established classes, competitive small boat sailing in Ireland is clearly on its knees.

How can we reasonably expect to produce world class sailors from this modest environment?

The scope of the challenge is awesome!

Published in ISA

#ISA - The Irish Sailing Association has issued an open invitation to dinghy sailors to discuss the future of dinghy and one design racing in Ireland at a special meeting less than two weeks away.

The Dinghy & One Design Keelboats Convention will take place on Saturday 2 November at 10.15am in the JB Room at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

Chaired by Margaret O'Donnell, the convention follows on from the classes forum this past March, which led the ISA Board to establish a Dinghy/One Design Racing Advisory Group.

That meeting also prompted Ric Morris' suggestions for five things the ISA could do to rejuvenate dinghy sailing in Ireland. His salient points will surely provide much fodder for discussion on the day.

Published in ISA
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Two adults and three children have been rescued from the water after their dinghy capsized off Gwbert, in North Wales.

Milford Haven Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) received a 999 call just after 11am reporting that a group of people were in the water yesterday morning.

The Cardigan Coastguard Rescue Team and the Cardigan RNLI inshore lifeboat were sent to the scene. The lifeboat located those in the water and managed to get them all on board. They were taken ashore where they were met by the Cardigan Coastguard Rescue Team and ambulance crews.

Bob Peel, Watch Manager at Milford Haven MRCC, said:

"The two adults and three children were well equipped as all were wearing lifejackets. They were rescued from the water uninjured, just cold and shaken from their ordeal.

"We always want people to have fun but stay safe when out on the water. That's why we always recommend to those heading out in a boat, canoe, kayak and such like, that they should wear an appropriate lifejacket or buoyancy aid. It's useless unless worn and could save your life."

Published in Coastguard
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#dinghy – Just because Irish dinghy and one design fleet attendances appear to be holding up well in recession doesn't mean there is nothing of concern in the numbers involved in what is the backbone of Irish sailing.

In fact, there's probably a window here for about five years while the domestic classes still have reasonable numbers, but a lot of the current crop of senior sailors are getting older. After that, the whole scene could really nose dive, not helped by lack of cash amongst 30–50–year–olds, which will stymie the future growth of junior sailing classes such as Oppies.

More dinghy sailing promotion on so many levels is needed to bring new blood into the sport. Euro for euro it is so much more deserving than some other waterborne initiatives this season.

This weekend the first ever staging of a World championships on Ireland's inland waters takes place on Lough Derg with the Mirror worlds. Next month, the Olympic Laser class European championships sets sail on Dublin Bay.

It illustrates a buoyant scene for now and one that accurately supports claims made by sailors last Spring that much more should be done to promote dinghy and one design sailing.

There is still the same 20-40 boat fleet sizes and strong participation in classes like Lasers, RSs, GP14s, Fireballs, Mermaids, SODs, Wags, FFs, SBs and Squibs. This month, RS titles were decided in a record breaking turnout on Belfast Lough.

There was confirmation of this at this month's Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta with SB20s, FFs and Squibs all healthy at about 20 each and on the dinghy course you had Laser Standards, Fireballs, Mermaids, IDRA 14s and Water Wags all in double figures. A couple of new–fangled Moths too!

Of particular note was the Beneteau 21 keelboat fleet – now dubbed the Dublin Bay 21 – racing as a one design class for the first time.

Last weekend in Skerries, 15 contested the Irish Fireball title (well done Kenny and Dave), a hundred fought for three Laser titles on Lough Ree (well done Chris, Seafra & Cliodhna).

And to add to the point at a local level, last week, the National Yacht Club hosted its biggest ever junior event with a combined fleet of 180-boats off Dun Laoghaire, for a club regatta!

On the downside, it is disappointing Dragon numbers are low but that's pure economics isn't it? Wayfarers have cancelled their National Championships in Wicklow too.

Overall, we should not be complacent because of a seemingly buoyant summer period. All is not well.

This week Glenans Sail Training Association signalled problems at its operations in Collanmore and Baltimore, traditional strongholds for adult dinghy sail training.

As we know in any yacht race, if we are becalmed, we fall behind. We need to find the new wind. There is a need to grow the sport through the extensive Irish club and class network, otherwise it will die.

Support of dinghy sailing at junior, local and national level can have far reaching benefits for all aspects of the sport, a point well made last April by dinghy and one design delegates at the National Yacht Club workshop in Dun Laoghaire.

Published in Water Rat
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#CelticSea - A British man's unorthodox attempt to cross the Celtic Sea from Dorset to Ireland has come to an end after he was rescued by the UK coastguard.

A RTÉ News reports, the man was discovered some 2.7 nautical miles south of Durdle Door on Dorset's Jurassic Coast in a 6ft inflatable dinghy.

He was found with two paddles - one being used with a plastic sheet as an improvised sail - plus a limited amount of food and drink, and no suitable communication or lifesaving gear.

Rescuers later brought the man back to shore where he was treated for severe sunburn.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

#isa –The ISA President Niamh McCutcheon says the association's decision in 1998 to move away from utilising voluntary support has been a significant factor in the 'perceived disengagement of the membership from the operations of the ISA'. The conclusion is contained in ISA Board recommendations from March's Dinghy Sailing Forum published today (download the full recommendations as a pdf below).

The 1998 strategic plan was, however, unanimously approved by the membership and in its foreword the then president Neil Murphy expressly referred to the association's requirement for volunteer involvement 'whose contribution was crucial to the success of the ISA'. (PDF of the 1998 strategic plan foreword is downloadable below).

Today's recommendations follow the motion proposed by Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong at the ISA AGM held on 2nd March. Following intense discussion on Afloat.ie a meeting was called to discuss the future of Small Boat Sailing and Youth training in Ireland. This meeting was held in the National Yacht Club on 23rd March.

The President says in her recommendations there are a number of action items that may help in the short term but there is no simple solution.  'The implementation of changes to the strategies and structure of an organisation such as the ISA will evolve in time, and only with the help and support of clubs, classes and training centres'.

The March forum was chaired by former ISA President Paddy Maguire, and heard strong views from another former president Roger Bannon.  Over 120 (including 14 ISA Board and staff members) were present, representative mainly from the Dublin area from a wide range of Small Boat Sailing interests - clubs, training centres & classes.

Comment on this topic is welcome below

Published in ISA
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#sailing – What started out as calls for change in Irish sailing on Afloat.ie a month ago has this week been echoed around the internet with more than a little worldwide momentum.

A boost in unique visitor traffic to Afloat.ie could not be more heartening with quality inbound links to an online debate on stemming the decline of dinghy sailing.

Over the course of a month from February 26th 12 separate stories on the topic generated over 11, 000 readers.

The message is very clear. Grassroots sailing needs to be revitalised and if this is energised correctly the general improvement in standards will produce world class sailors.

In early March, thanks to the efforts of a group of passionate dinghy sailors concerned over the lack of recognition for senior dinghy fleets by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has grown internationally to highlight some serious deficiencies in the management of the most exciting sport in the world, yacht racing.

A full 'shake–up' for Irish sailing is now on the agenda for 2013 after dinghy champions took aim at current policies they claimed are 'damaging the sport'.

The meaningful online discussion on Afloat.ie was heartfelt. The constructive comments from sailors at home and abroad will be important for the future direction of the sport.

Now it is hugely supportive to see former world sailing president Paul Henderson adding to the chorus that calls for a renewed emphasis on dinghy sailing and encouraging a broader base of participation in the sport.

Henderson correctly focuses on kids being ignored who may never be Olympic helmsmen but still want to get out on the water crewing.

It is also interesting that some notable leading yachting publications have so far studiously ignored the debate despite being well aware of it, this is probably more a sign of vested interests!

But all that is changing now the likes of Henderson has shared his thoughts on the elements that grew the sport of sailing over the past four decades, and what he believes is holding sailing back today it is clear change at home and abroad is well overdue.

Aside from the expense of new boats and the emphasis on single-handers and college sailing that prioritises the most elite athletes, the Canadian sailing hand also believes yacht clubs in North America "have forgotten what they are about... [thinking that] regattas should be a profit centre, rather than the hosting the sailors cheaply as the raison d'etre of a yacht club."

These comments come after former ISA president Roger Bannon's candid assessment of the state of sailing in Ireland today.

According to Bannon, the "importance of supporting elite and Olympic sailing" must become "a subsidiary focus to the main objective of getting people sailing competently and safely in whatever boat they wish".

The ISA today is finalising the recommendations of its board meeting held last night. Its Chief Executive has promised to effect change and wants a closer working relationship between the clubs and classes.

Published in News Update
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#RNLI - Newcastle RNLI’s always-on-call lifeboat crew had to abandon their buckets and sponges during a fundraising car wash at the weekend to respond to an emergency at the Co Down town’s harbour.

The RNLI volunteers were busily soaping and rinsing cars for their annual Easter fundraiser on Saturday when they were alerted to a woman in trouble in the freezing water a few yards from one of the piers.

The car wash was immediately abandoned and within minutes the inshore lifeboat Aldergrove II was launched and rushed to the woman’s aid.

At the same time, crew member Shane Rice grabbed a lifebelt from the pier and jumped into the water to assist the woman. He kept her afloat while the Aldergrove II came alongside.

The woman was helped into the rescue inflatable, wrapped in blankets to prevent hypothermia, and taken back to shore where an ambulance was waiting to take her to hospital.

Newcastle RNLI’s deputy launching authority Clifford Moorehead said afterwards: "The lifeboat crew are always ready to respond in an instant to any emergency. It is fortunate that the car wash was in progress at the time and the crew members were on hand to swiftly deal with this case.


"After the rescue the crew members came back to the harbour and resumed their car wash. It’s just all in a day’s work for the RNLI."

It wasn't the only callout of the weekend for the RNLI in Co Down, as Bangor RNLI assisted a lone sailor who got into difficulty on a sailing dinghy Easter Sunday.

At 1.10pm the volunteer lifeboat crew received an urgent request from Belfast Coastguard to launch the lifeboat and rescue one person from a 17ft dinghy. 

The sailing dinghy had reportedly gone aground on ‘Cockle Island’ off Groomsport Harbour on the southern shores of Belfast Lough.  
  


Upon arrival at the scene, the volunteer crew found that the occupant onboard the dinghy had been assisted by another boat owner and the vessel had been safely tied to a mooring buoy.  
 

Meanwhile, last Wednesday evening Portaferry RNLI was launched to reports that red flares has been sighted on Strangford Lough off Kircubbin in Co Down.

They were joined by a coastguard team that searched the shoreline and after some time recovered a spent flare casing. The inshore lifeboat and its volunteer crew were stood down after a number of hours with the callout proving to be a false alarm.

Portaferry RNLI lifeboat operations manager Brian Bailie said: "A member of the public acted in good faith ... alerting the emergency services to what they understood to be a distress flare on the lough."

He reiterated that flares "should only be used in emergency situations".

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#dbsc – Dublin Bay sailors Paul Keane and Hugh Sheehy have announced plans for a unique sailing event in Ireland this coming sailing season.

The Island Trial, an open sailing time trial on a fixed course in Dublin Bay was first announced on Sunday 23rd March to the local dinghy sailors who had gathered to collect prizes and wind up the 42nd Dun Laoghaire frostbite season.

The 11km fixed course utilises famous local landmarks and Dublin Bay racing marks which are laid on the bay from Mid April to October each year.

What makes the event truly unique is that to enter sailors must provide a GPX tracking file which verifies the course sailed and the start and finish times. This means the course is open every day (and night) and sailors can decide when they would like to have a go.

At the moment there are two prizes up for grabs. First is the Bragging Rights Cup for the outright record which is being eyed up by the local moth and skiff fleet, although some big boats may have a chance too.

Then there's the Handy Sailor Silver Salver - the trophy for the winner on corrected time - which highlights the skill of the crew, no matter what their boat. Other prizes such as a junior trophy will be added as the event progresses.

The event has piqued the curiosity of many and several sailors visiting Dun Laoghaire for the biennial 4 day regatta in July will have a go at the trial. All boat types are welcome, from foiling moths to MOD-70s.

Published in DBSC
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